(Terry Nation) reviewed by Marian de Haan


Terry Nation's last contribution to the Series he created and by far his worst, plot-wise, IMHO. All three Nation's S3 episodes seem to suffer from the fact that he's writing for a character who in his original conception was never meant to play more than a supporting role. One can almost feel Nation mourning the absence of Blake in S3. The result is a far less intelligent and able Avon than the character fleshed out by Chris Boucher. In Aftermath Avon goes against his survival instinct by leaving Orac - his only means of returning to Liberator - for Servalan to grab. In Powerplay he is constantly outwitted by Tarrant. And here he forgets all his natural caution and rushes blindly to Blake's aid under circumstances where even Tarrant would stop to think.

The story's weakest point is that Avon's desire to come to Blake's aid does so utterly cloud his judgement. Avon's character is altered here to fit the needs of the plot, and it shows. Yes, he would rush to get Blake out of the mess, but not in this stupid manner. His plan is basically flawed and Avon must be rated intelligent enough to realise that it can only land him in the same mess Blake's in, without any means of escape. Futile heroic gestures aren't Avon's style. Obviously the writer thought he could get away with it by making Avon obsessed with finding Blake, but as we see nothing of this obsession in previous episodes, it doesn't convince me. [But then, I see less emotional dependency between Avon and Blake than most fans. :-)]

The whole plot is very weak. How was Servalan going to leave Terminal in case she could not get her hands on Liberator? Why did she not keep Avon prisoner, his brain could have been of use to her. The mind-influencing procedure seems needlessly complicated. Why undo the conditioning that makes Avon believe he sees and talks to Blake? Surely leaving him under the influence would have made him easier to manipulate? In Powerplay and Harvest of Kairos it is established that a registration of voiceprint is needed to command Liberator, yet here Servalan takes command without that procedure. [One can attribute that to Zen's malfunctioning, but that's something Servalan couldn't have anticipated.] Her failure to notice Liberator's decaying state may be blamed on her elation, but where did her servants learn how to fly the ship? How many servants did she have with her? Nobody seems to miss the two who got eaten by the Links.

The "rich and invincible" message isn't Blake's style, but for that very reason I can imagine Avon interpreting it as a coded plea for help from Blake. Vila's character is used well. In tense situations he either stresses out completely [dropping his gun in "Space Fall"] or he digs into hidden reserves of resourcefulness. Here he is at his best, first doing the right thing in shutting off Zen's autorepair units and later tricking Servalan's servants into letting him take Orac with him.

Servalan misjudging Avon again links back nicely to the first episode of S3. In Aftermath she overestimates his lust for power and here she overestimates his willingness to protect Blake - against her expectation he is *not* prepared to trade Liberator and its crew for Blake.

Personal appreciation: *

What makes this episode so hard to swallow for me is the lack of logic in the plot. Avon suspects a trap, guesses rightly who's behind it, yet he proceeds to walk into it in a manner of unprecedented and futile self sacrifice that is totally alien to his nature. Once it's clear that Terminal is the source of the elusive messages, Avon should have parked Liberator in orbit and send down a message: "This is as far as I come, Blake or whoever you are!" [After all, he *has* a strong suspicion that the message is a trap.] He then could have conducted the ensuing negotiations from the safety of Liberator. What's the point of landing himself in a situation where he can do nothing to help Blake?

All through S3 we don't get the slightest indication that Avon is obsessed with finding Blake. Now, suddenly, he's so frantic about it that he loses all reason, caution, and sense for self-preservation. Even if we attribute Avon's ill-fated decision to fly through that cloud to lack of sleep, IMHO it still feels like a feeble plot device. To me the story would have been much more convincing if the writer had found some other reason for going through that cloud, like Orac overriding Avon's order to go round it because it wants to study the phenomenon from close up. [Blame the computer! Well, what do you expect from a civil servant. :-)]

Avon's decision to keep the others out of it must have been made before the lack of sleep began to impair his judgement. And it is here that credibility fails again. Nothing Tarrant has done can warrant the expectation that a threat to his life will hold him back. With "Rumours of Death" in mind, Avon must know that there's no way he can make his companions mind their own business. The more secretive he acts, the more eager and determined that will make them to find out what he's up to. [He could probably have allayed their suspicions by telling them that he was after another piece of Sopron or something :-)]

The only way I can make sense of Avon's behaviour in this episode is by assuming that part of his brain was left behind on Ultraworld. [That could also account for his lacklustre performance in Death Watch and his forgetfulness to check for surveillance devices in Moloch. :-)]

That said, there are parts of the episode I do enjoy. It's good to see Blake back, although I don't like the beard. [He doesn't look particularly awful; I just dislike beards.] (Judith: just shows how fans differ - I *adore* Blake with a beard, but then I'm married to a man with a lovely beard.) Nice to see Vila being decisive and fast thinking when his life is at stake. Zen's "dying" is touching. Avon going down that ladder provides quite a bit of tension, as do the scenes on Liberator when Dayna and Vila are working out what's going on. In Avon's "So Blake is alive!" I can hear him wondering whether he has to be grateful for that or not - a nice indication of his mixed feelings for Blake.

For me the most memorable moment is Avon's face when Servalan aims her gun at him after he's told Vila to run. He's looking Death in the eye there, and he knows it. That scene always makes me go cold. Avon's face when told about Blake's death shows loads of inner turmoil. The end smile is great - smiling in the face of disaster, so typically Avon.

Cally and Dayna have donned their outfits from Ultraworld, the others have taken the time for another (and their last) visit to Liberator's wardrobe room. Vila looks rather bulky in his tunic but that can be attributed to the fact that he's wearing his Moloch costume under it. [Well, that's the one we see him wearing in the next episode and how else does he get it off the ship? :-)] Tarrant has dug up something truly awful - was Liberator's wardrobe room getting depleted? Going by his previous costume, Avon must be picking his with his eyes firmly closed. Thankfully he's drawn lucky this time. Servalan goes for the extreme - with that shoulder brooch she risks losing an eye every time she turns her head. What does her second-in-command have in her hair? The Links are better not mentioned, but with those costumes Reeval and Toron are asking to be spotted by them.


"Rather you than me." Why is Cally suddenly so afraid of Avon?

Why doesn't Avon consult Orac about the fluid cloud? That eerie music when they fly through the fluid particles cloud presages something ominous.

Where on his body does Avon hide his gun? [No, not *there* - that's where he stuffs his spare socks! :-)]

How does Avon know which direction to take before he comes across the directional indicator? Note how, when he's done with the thing, he tosses it away in good old Avon fashion.

"From here it's downhill all the way." Prophetic words.

"Let's get down to terms." And then he looks surprised at Servalan's proposal to trade Blake for Liberator. Considering that her previous actions have made abundantly clear what she's after, one would have expected Avon to anticipate this.

"We need Avon - he's the computer genius." The only time in the Series that he is actually called that.

"I hate to think they were our ancestors." * Our* ancestors? So Cally is human??? (Judith: Well, I always believed that the Auronar are of human origin.)

Regarding the whole of S3, this Season suffers even more than the previous from the employment of different writers, not all of who had a firm grip on the characters. I have mixed feelings about the lack of purpose of the crew in this Season. On the one hand it would have been nice to see them keep up Blake's fight. On the other, the picture of the three old crew members being rather fizzed out and needing time to readjust has a certain realism, as well as providing the opportunity for Tarrant's gung-ho initiatives.

A major drawback is the necessary change in Tarrant's character after the casting of Steven Pacey in the role. [Although this doesn't excuse Harvest of Kairos - nothing can do that IMO.] The gap between the experienced mercenary and the rash young daredevil remains too wide for the presentation of a consistent character.

I would have liked to see some more attempts to trace Blake and Jenna. Continuity would have been served by someone occasionally expressing concern for the missing crewmembers. Halfway through the season the search for them could have been resumed for one episode, with the crew going after a rumour that seems more believable than most. Children of Auron could have been easily written along this line.

Liberator's destruction hurts, and this time there's no way out like in the cliff-hanger of S1. Meant as the Series' end, Terminal at least leaves the human crew alive. The scope for fanfiction dealing with its aftermath is as wide as that of the real final episode, but I'm glad we did get a 4th Season.

What Could Have Been Done to Improve It:

- An extensive rewrite.

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